Published Thursday, June 12, 2014

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New residence hall in the works

Ichabod with hard hat

The wheels are turning on yet another major construction effort on campus.

The Washburn Board of Regents on Thursday approved the hiring of HTK/KWK of Topeka. The firm will prepare architectural drawings for a new 350-bed student housing and dining facility to be built on the east side of campus. That is about 50 beds smaller than the Living Learning Center.

The exact configuration of the student housing is unknown, Washburn administrators said, but the suite-style student rooms will share common living space as they do in Kuehne and West Halls.

"That's the concept," said Denise Ottinger, vice president for student life. But the exact configuration "depends on what's feasible financially."

Construction of the new building, which includes both housing and dining, is expected to cost approximately $30 million.

Rick Anderson, Washburn's vice president for administration and treasurer, said work with the architecture firm will begin in the coming days and the construction will be bid in December. Construction is expected to be underway in March 2015, with the first students moving in in August 2016.

Anderson said the new dining facility will address the "bottleneck at lunch" experienced by students, faculty, staff and visitors at the Memorial Union. Ottinger expects the new facility to add programming opportunities as well, including late-night dining options.

"We hope it will be a destination spot after the game if you want to get a pizza or a burger," she said.

Washburn's residence halls have had a waiting list for the past four years. Anderson said this construction will address an obvious need and eliminate a reason some prospective students may choose another university.

"We don't know how many students we lose because we don't have housing," Anderson said. "But that does happen."

The momentum created by this and other building projects on campus is likely to have a positive impact on Washburn.

"It's like 2000 all over again," Ottinger said. "We had orange construction stuff all over campus. ... We saw the impact of what happened last time."